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World-System AnalysisWorld-System Analysis

An Introduction

Immanuel Wallerstein

Narrated by Fred Filbrich

Available from Audible

Book published by Duke University Press

In World-Systems Analysis, Immanuel Wallerstein provides a concise and accessible introduction to the comprehensive approach that he pioneered thirty years ago to understanding the history and development of the modern world. Since Wallerstein first developed world-systems analysis, it has become a widely utilized methodology within the historical social sciences and a common point of reference in discussions of globalization. Now, for the first time in one volume, Wallerstein offers a succinct summary of world-systems analysis and a clear outline of the modern world-system, describing the structures of knowledge upon which it is based, its mechanisms, and its future.

Wallerstein explains the defining characteristics of world-systems analysis: its emphasis on world-systems rather than nation-states, on the need to consider historical processes as they unfold over long periods of time, and on combining within a single analytical framework bodies of knowledge usually viewed as distinct from one another—such as history, political science, economics, and sociology. He describes the world-system as a social reality comprised of interconnected nations, firms, households, classes, and identity groups of all kinds. He identifies and highlights the significance of the key moments in the evolution of the modern world-system: the development of a capitalist world-economy in the sixteenth-century, the beginning of two centuries of liberal centrism in the French Revolution of 1789, and the undermining of that centrism in the global revolts of 1968. Intended for general readers, students, and experienced practitioners alike, this book presents a complete overview of world-systems analysis by its original architect.

Immanuel Wallerstein is a Senior Research Scholar at Yale University and Director of the Fernand Braudel Center at Binghamton University. Among his many books are The Modern World-System (three volumes); The End of the World as We Know It: Social Science for the Twenty-first Century; Utopistics: Or, Historical Choices of the Twenty-first Century; and Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms. He is the recipient of the American Sociological Association’s Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award and is a former president of the International Sociological Association.


“This is a concise and elegantly written introduction by a major historian and social theorist. Given recent interest in globalization, Wallerstein's overview is particularly timely.... No on interested in Wallerstein's oeuvre or in teaching world-systems theory should be without this definitive introduction for both students and general readers. Essential.”


“It is hard to disagree with Wallerstein when he writes, 'We need first of all to try to understand clearly what is going on. We need then to make our choices about the directions in which we want the world to go. And we must finally figure out how we can act in the present so that it is likely to go in the direction we prefer. We can think of these three tasks as the intellectual, the moral and the political tasks'(p. 90). The author himself makes a most interesting attempt to solve the three tasks indicated above. It makes sense for all of us to get a better understanding of it, if we share concern about the fate of the world or if at least we try to comprehend it and hence our own problems.”

Review of Politics

World-System Analysis provides a strong, readable overview of world-systems analysis and the dynamics of the modern world-system.... . [B]oth educators and students should find the text useful in its elaboration of social theory, contemporary social problems, economic sociology, political sociology, and the dynamics of globalization.”

Teaching Sociology

“Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis represents one of the most impressive and influential achievements in the recent history of the social sciences.”

Australian Journal of Politics and History

“Wallerstein produces both more compelling and clearly written explanations for his theory than at any time past.... Wallerstein successfully delivers a precise and easily understood statement of his model in the first twenty pages of his book in a way that he never previously has. This will be of great use to students and professors alike who are looking to acquaint themselves with, or teach, his theory. This new clarity will reduce the confusion surrounding his ideas that have often led critics to knock down open doors and pummel straw men of their own creation because they really did not understand the ideas Wallerstein was trying to advance. For intellectually honest critics, the theory will now be subject to scrutiny based on what it really is.”

International Social Science Review

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